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Screening and Prevention

Children and adults should be screened at least annually to see if they have a high or increasing body mass index (BMI), which allows doctors to recommend healthy lifestyle changes to prevent overweight and obesity.

Screening for a high or increasing body mass index (BMI)

To screen for overweight and obesity, doctors measure BMI using calculations that depend on whether you are a child or an adult. After reading the information below, talk to your doctor or your child’s doctor to determine if you or your child has a high or increasing BMI.

  • Children: A healthy weight is usually when your child’s BMI is at the 5th percentile up to the 85th percentile, based on growth charts for children who are the same age and sex. To figure out your child’s BMI, use the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen and compare the BMI with the table below.
  • Adults: A healthy weight for adults is usually when your BMI is 18.5 to less than 25. To figure out your BMI, use the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s online BMI calculator and compare it with the table below. You can also download the BMI calculator app for iPhone and Android.
BMI table for children and adults. Full description on caption.
Body mass index (BMI) is used to determine if you or your child are underweight, healthy, or overweight or obese. Children are underweight if their BMI is below the 5th percentile, healthy weight if their BMI is between the 5th to less than the 85th percentile, overweight if their BMI is the 85th percentile to less than the 95th percentile, and obese if their BMI is the 95th percentile or above. Adults are underweight if their BMI is below 18.5, healthy weight if their BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, overweight if their BMI is 25 to 29.9, and obese if their BMI is 30 or above. *A child’s BMI percentile is calculated by comparing your child’s BMI to growth charts for children who are the same age and sex as your child.
 

Healthy lifestyle changes to prevent overweight and obesity

If your BMI indicates you are getting close to being overweight, or if you have certain risk factors, your doctor may recommend you adopt healthy lifestyle changes to prevent you from becoming overweight and obese. Changes include healthy eating, being physically active, aiming for a healthy weight,and getting healthy amounts of sleep. Read healthy lifestyle changes for more information.

Look for

  • Diagnosis will explain tests and procedures that your doctor may use to diagnose overweight and obesity.
  • Living With will discuss what your doctor may recommend to monitor and prevent your condition from getting worse and to screen you for complications.
  • Research for Your Health will explain how we are using current research and advancing research to prevent overweight and obesity.
  • Participate in NHLBI Clinical Trials will discuss our open clinical trials that are studying ways to prevent overweight and obesity.
 
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Updated: February 23, 2017